Dear Prime Minister,
Last summer, we established the Covid Recovery Commission with a clear but critical focus – to consider the long-term impacts of the pandemic on the Government’s levelling up agenda and to make bold yet practical proposals to ensure our economy emerges stronger, fairer and more resilient.
In our first paper, we examined the impact of the pandemic on communities across the UK at the neighbourhood level. We found that the inequalities which have existed for many years have widened as a result of Covid-19. Unemployment, poor mental health and mortality rates were higher in more deprived areas. The data also revealed that deprivation exists across the whole of the UK, including in wealthy parts of the country. To level up will require interventions at a national and local level.
Our second paper asks how business can help address this challenge and others such as net zero. In our view, it starts with a recognition that business’ place in the 21st century will be to serve more than just shareholders. To ensure we reflect this principle in our own work we have drawn on a wide range of non-business stakeholders to contribute to our thinking, including to hold interviews with over 60 subject experts, business representatives and civil society groups.
Our engagement leads us to conclude that there must be a renewed relationship between the state, private enterprise and society based on the co-creation and co-delivery of initiatives. We must imagine new ways of working together if we are to deliver the kind of transformational change needed to create globally competitive industries, good quality work and increased living standards for all.
This requires business to step up. Business already plays vital roles in our society, including as employers, investors and advisers, creating jobs and driving economic growth. However, the role of businesses can, and should, go beyond this traditional view. Firms such as those run by our Commissioners increasingly see themselves as supporting the delivery of shared societal goals in ways that go beyond their core business activity.
We are optimistic that if businesses, large and small, work together and collaborate with government more effectively, we can not only overcome some of the biggest social and economic challenges across society, but we can make the most of the opportunities of building back better. We believe that the upcoming Budget is the right time to start a conversation about what type of country we aspire to be and the role of business within it.
There are three elements which we believe are critical to this:
- Defining and delivering Global Britain. We believe this should focus on creating the conditions for globally competitive industries to emerge and flourish in the UK. This will require a much more focused industrial strategy based on an honest assessment of our existing and future strengths; from our vibrant fintech sector, to the UK’s life sciences ecosystem which has underpinned our world-leading vaccine programme. Post-Brexit and post-pandemic a key feature of policy should be to ensure that the UK remains one of the best places to set up and grow a business in the world.
- Delivering net zero. The crisis has accelerated trends which support the UK’s net zero ambitions, such as increased adoption of digital technologies. But achieving net zero is not a given and we must ensure all communities benefit from the green growth opportunities, including those that have traditionally been in carbon intensive industries.
- Purpose led business. A fair and green recovery requires a commitment on the part of business to play an active role in delivering it: as employers, investors and advisers and through their community footprint. This is particularly true for large businesses who tend to have a greater capacity to help workers to retrain, the capital to invest in world-leading infrastructure and the expertise to help suppliers become greener and more productive.
There are some immediate issues to address at the 3rd March Budget, including as part of our ongoing response to the pandemic. But the Budget should be the start of a national conversation about what sort of Britain we would like to see emerge from the pandemic, starting with a renewed relationship between business and government based on collaboration and co-delivery.
That should allow us to move from piecemeal initiatives towards a shared roadmap for creating a green and global Britain, which can thrive post-Brexit and post-pandemic. We will soon publish the conclusions of our research and set out our ideas for how to take forward this vision. We will share this with you and we would welcome the chance to pre-brief you and your team and discuss how we build back better, together.
John Allan CBE, Chair of Tesco, Barratt and Chair of Council at Imperial College London
Manoj Badale, Co-founder and Joint Managing Partner, Blenheim Chalcot and Chairman of the British Asian Trust
Ruth Cairnie, Chair, Babcock
Annette Court, Chair, Admiral UK
Ahmed Essam, CEO, Vodafone UK
Ian Funnell, CEO UK and Ireland, Hitachi ABB Power Grids
John Holland-Kaye, CEO, Heathrow Airport
Tom Keith-Roach, UK President, Astra Zeneca
Sinead Lynch, Chair, Shell UK
Virgina Simmons, Managing Partner UK and Ireland, McKinsey & Company